February 2020

Tue 25 Feb — An antiques shop has a large Homer Simpson sitting on the roof with his legs dangling down. The security light has been stuck in his right hand. I look at an old granite curling stone, which is missing it’s handle, resting on top of a mantle piece that leans against the outside of one of the over-filled barns...

Sat 1 Feb —

I pass the antique furniture shop on Seabank Road, on my way to collect a parcel from the postal depot. I’ve called into the furniture shop on several occasions – I’ve purchased a 1970s display cabinet with sliding glass doors, a red 1960s floor-lamp and a chimney pot planter from here – but I’d never before been able to see into the extra storage unit next door, the one that is normally stacked so high with furniture that you can’t enter. It’s had a bit of a clear-out and there are washing machines in there. A former launderette. On the back wall, in nice 3D black-on-white plastic lettering, reads: “For a Cleaner Wash Don’t Overload”.

Sun 2 Feb —

A long walk up to Guinea Gap Baths rewards me with a wall of tiles featuring swimmers’ front crawl arms, a squash player, a weightlifter, a scuba diver. The tiles are not small mosaics, but regular sized vertical rectangles of different pastel hues, cut in simple diagonals where a colour change is required for flesh, or kit, or a ball to emerge. 8-bit graphics in porcelain. There’s one other sporting figure that I can’t immediately decipher. A ten-pin bowler, or a volley ball player perhaps, stands with a white circle on the palm of their hand. I’d go with water polo, given the location, but they are wearing shoes and socks. So a water polo referee, perhaps.

Mon 3 Feb —

A cinema within a cinema. The packed-out Parasite preview has a satellite Q&A beamed in from the Mayfair Curzon. The ceiling is different, but from certain angles it feels like Picturehouse at FACT is stretching forwards, expanding into the screen. My seat in Row D feels further back than it is. My neighbouring viewers find themselves in that awkward situation of wanting to clap but knowing it won’t be heard down in London. It feels like we’re all there until shortly after 9pm, when the host suddenly says “Oh I think we might be losing our audiences around the country”. The signal is cut and we’re back in Liverpool.

Tue 4 Feb —

A man wears earphones and a mouth mask on the New Brighton Merseyrail train. We are a long way from Wuhan but not so far from the UK’s quarantine zone at Arrowe Park Hospital.

Three separate passengers with books join the same seating booth, subconsciously – or perhaps consciously – knowing that they will be less disturbed by chatter or mobile phone noises here.

A woman walks out of Heron Foods on Myrtle Parade carrying bags of shopping. A Staffordshire bull terrier walks alongside her, helping out by carrying its own tin of dog food between its jaws.

Wed 5 Feb —

A colleague steps out of the office to make a personal phone call. The sound is amplified by the high concrete ceilings. It reminds me of the acoustic reverb chamber that Björk stepped inside during her Cornucopia tour.

At a LinkedIn for Business masterclass in a Manchester hotel, delegates share a lobby break-out space with spa-going hotel guests wearing white dressing gowns. The reception desk and the bar are all un-staffed and no-one is sure who the fancy donuts or coffees are for. Delegates or guests? Us or them? No-one or anyone?

Thu 6 Feb —

My personalised ‘Year in Film 2019’ stats arrive in my inbox from Letterboxd. Scrolling down, I get a map of the world highlighting in green all the countries I’ve seen films from. Bolivia is a black, landlocked blob of unwatched films on an otherwise largely green South America. In the evening I am required to identify Paraguay on an unlabelled map at the local pub quiz. My new-found knowledge of Bolivia’s shape, size and location comes in handy.

Fri 7 Feb —

A large glass food unit sits askew on the pavement outside a closed down Jamaican restaurant on Bold Street. It looks like a deli display cabinet as it has a sloping diagonal pane on one side. Various bits of cellophane and polystyrene flap around, half-taped to it, and I can’t tell if it’s on its way in or out. As I step around it, it takes on the form of an upright piano and I can imagine it having dropped from above.

Sat 8 Feb —

Opposite the grand ashlar stone entrance to Birkenhead Park sits a brick Art Deco building. It is presently a Furniture World with ‘Open 7 Days’ and ‘Your Complete Home Furniture Store’ banners attached to its canopy and walls. The ‘O’ in World is a globe. Up above the banners which feature beds and mirror-door wardrobes, there are three round friezes from the building’s former life. The head of Pierrot the mime clown poses in white plaster relief against a cobalt blue background. I learn that it was the Gaumont Birkenhead (1938). From further back, Pierrot could be another globe advertising Furniture World. His pointed hat an upside-down South America or Africa.

Sun 9 Feb —

Waves crash over the sea wall into the Marine Lake at New Brighton. The round concrete island, much loved by seagulls, is completely submerged.

Mon 10 Feb —

Layers of old road like a sliced Mars Bar are exposed on Brownlow Hill where they’re digging the pipes up.

A dead-end space at the end of a narrow corridor in the basement of a tiled training centre, beyond the door to the Gents, has been filled with a small round table and two chairs. A strange place for a meeting, in a building full of seminar rooms, training hubs and breakout spaces. Somewhere to monitor the number of people who make use of the toilets, perhaps.

Tue 11 Feb —

Roadsweepers gather under Mount Pleasant car park with their sandwiches and bottles of Coke. Quarter to nine in the morning is a lunch break for them.

Across the road at the back of the Adelphi Hotel is a car park for the hotel with white painted walls. Closed shutters hide whether it is still in use or not. The ‘Car Park’ lettering above the shutters has either been removed or fallen down over time. All that remains are stud holes and ghost lettering.

The Marine Lake is full to the brim after Storm Ciara and high tide. I’d never noticed before how much lower the lake wall is at the car park end by Fort Perch Rock. Water washes across where cars and camper vans are normally parked. A couple of orange carrier bags catch around the half-submerged legs of a bench – no longer looking out over the Marine Lake, but looking into it – while a blue Calor gas bottle rolls towards the arcades.

Wed 12 Feb —

A man in a Ghostbusters costume, vacuum cleaner hose sticking out from his backpack, pushes a pram down Hardman Street. Four elderly tourists hold a fully-unfolded map out on the corner next to the Philharmonic Dining Rooms. The Ghostbuster pinches hold of one of the old man’s elbows. I momentarily think he’s about to offer orienteering help, but he pushes the elbow in towards the map, to make space to push his pram between the old man and a lamppost. The old men look at him, puzzled as to what he is doing, and what exactly he is, as he passes.

Thu 13 Feb —

A horn on top of a speedboat, which is parked up on a trailer, half on the pavement, catches the dim yellow streetlight at night. A trumpet floating in the dark at head height as I pass.

Fri 14 Feb —

Small birds’ nests sit in the leafless trees in the planters on Hardman Street. Down below, at the roots, the soil is a scattering of discarded laughing gas canisters.

On the phone to a customer services hotline, while trying to ascertain whether a payment has been taken or not, I hear a dog barking in the background and I wonder what sort of office I have been put through to.

Sat 15 Feb —

Broken concrete casts of feet and shoes lie in a planter outside Bridewell Studios. Twisted metal spokes protrude from the soles suggesting they might have once stood rooted to a plinth somewhere. Here and now, they look like discarded ice-skates.

A boy wears one of those reflective grey puffa jackets and dances around the underground of Central Station. As I pass, and he takes a corner with his arms out, my eyes can’t quite work out what’s going on with the colour. Bright then not bright. Light then dark. Luminous grey. Not yellow, pink, green or orange, but grey. I remember having to write a story at primary school once, about the discovery of a new colour. A fantasy. And here we are, decades later with Anish Kapoor copyrighting the blackest black (Vantablack), and this kid, dancing around the underground in Day-Glo grey.

Sun 16 Feb —

I walk around the perimeter of a near empty caravan park in Southport. It’s half term but Storms Ciara & Dennis have put people off. Rectangular puddles sit in some of the berths and it resembles a grid of miniature fields. Different crops viewed from an aeroplane. But close-up, it’s just evenly spaced grey gravel, green grass, brown water.

Mon 17 Feb —

A slide-show about Outsider Art upstairs at Leaf includes some documentary footage of Jarvis Cocker visiting some unusual modifications to people’s houses, or structures built in their back gardens. He wonders how long it will be before they are removed. It then occurs to me that the film footage must be 20 years old.

The cracked pane of glass in the small open-able part of the box room window has been replaced. The builder, who has kept hold of the spare set of house keys since the chimney repairs, explains by text message that unfortunately there is now a crack in the downstairs back room window, which he may have caused when opening it. Are these windows made of sugar glass? Is this a stunt-house from the set of an old martial arts film?

Tue 18 Feb —

The builder has returned the visitor’s parking permit that he’s been borrowing during the chimney and roof repairs. In text messages he has always referred to it as either ‘the paper’ or ‘the letter’, never as the parking permit. And here it is, folded inside out – A4 into quarters, with no text or dated disc image showing. I think rather than viewing it as a pass to leave on display on the dashboard, he has taken it to be a lucky talisman to keep in the van, or in his pocket, to ward off traffic wardens.

Wed 19 Feb —

The ‘Gaurdian News’ [sic] newsagent on Bold Street has been gutted. Emptied of its fashion magazines, diamanté encrusted mobile phone cases, fixed-price chocolate bars and cartons of Rubicon guava juice. Workmen chuck the last bits of shelving into the back of a transit van, leaving patches of bare plaster like a map of the world drawn from memory while blindfolded. The radio will no longer blare out, matching the tunes of the chippy two doors down. The cloud of weed smoke outside the door has cleared and the man behind the counter who was always on his phone – throughout every transaction – will be taking his calls elsewhere now. The triangular sign above the door remains for now, with its pleasingly subtle typo, less glaring than Blackpool’s ‘Fugde Corner’.

Thu 20 Feb —

The plastic triangular ‘Gaurdian News’ [sic] sign has now been taken down, revealing an old hand-painted sign for ‘Friendly’s Cafe & Take Away’.

The loud deaf guy on the 23:20 tells two other elderly gents that he’s volunteering at the Atheneum, looking after the library there. One of the other gents asks him if they’ve got anything on New Brighton. The deaf guy says “nothing like the Atheneum in New Brighton”. “No I mean do they have any books on New Brighton in the Atheneum?” “The Atheneum’s in Liverpool, next to the Bluecoat.”

Fri 21 Feb —

Sandbags sit propped up in threes by the fire doors in the Light cinema. Ready to be laid down in case of further flooding.

Sat 22 Feb —

Metal pole props add support to the cast iron canopy at Wallasey Grove Road Station. They are surrounded by cylindrical yellow foam padding like you’d find on BMX crossbars in the 1980s, except elongated, unbranded and vertical.

The yellow foam padding is taped on with black & yellow warning tape to add to the Health & Safety. Towards the bottom of the pole props, where there is less tape and the foam has been cut slightly too long, the yellow padding bows out and wanders wide of the pole. This gives an organic tree-root like look to the base of the poles. Day of the Triffids on the Wirral Line.

Sun 23 Feb —

Objects lying at the side of the house this morning: a scattering of 6 mini fudges, 1 forest fruits yoghurt slice, an orange with its peel slightly split, and an empty bottle of David Beckham Instinct.

Mon 24 Feb —

Driving up to Dumfries, the landscape outside of the passenger window is low hanging fog, spray from other vehicles in front and settled hail on the hills. In amongst a copse of large, leafless trees, one lies diagonally against its neighbours. All of its roots are out – a disc of bristles like a chimney sweep.

On a whiskey distillery tour in Annan, the guide asks if any of us have made home brew before. My dad explains that his dad used to be obsessed with making his own wine, and then I suddenly remember all these bottles from when I was a kid. Plain white sticky labels on the side with the year, and possibly a list of fruits from his greenhouse, written on in fountain pen.

Tue 25 Feb —

An antiques shop has a large Homer Simpson sitting on the roof with his legs dangling down. The security light has been stuck in his right hand. I look at an old granite curling stone, which is missing it’s handle, resting on top of a mantle piece that leans against the outside of one of the over-filled barns. The guy explains that he gets Canadians coming over asking about old Scots curling stones. “There’s another couple round there if you’re interested in them,” he tells me and as I walk round to the second barn, his colleague shows me with his foot. They are half buried in the mud and being used as doorstops.

Wed 26 Feb —

The antique shops in Kirkcudbright are more neatly laid out than yesterday’s fibre-glass Homer Simpson place. Here, in the town where they filmed most of The Wicker Man, every object has its own price label – even a pair of knives from a cutlery set have individual stickers on them. In the upstairs of another antique shop, one with arched windows that must’ve once been a chapel of some sort, chairs are laid out in rows like a meeting had just dispersed. Except there is no legroom between the rows which makes me think of those roller racking storage shelves in libraries.

Thurs 27 Feb —

Tents are pitched outside Size? on Bold Street waiting for limited edition Adidas Liverpool trainers to go on sale tomorrow.

As new blocks of flats go up in the Baltic Triangle, the low-rise Liver Grease & Oil is being demolished. A vinyl banner clings on to the remaining brickwork and sports the text: ‘celebrating 200+ years’.

A Digital Summit speaker in Camp and Furnace tells us: “We need to grow at least two unicorns to be picked out of the verticals.”

An intense networker unwittingly stands himself in front of red spotlights that shine through his slightly sticky-out ears.

Fri 28 Feb —

On the train home to New Brighton, I rest a 4 pinter of milk on the seat diagonally opposite. A grey-haired man gets on part way along the journey and sits opposite me. He is carrying a 4 pinter of milk. To other passengers on the train, this might look like a contemporary take on the old briefcase switching trope.

Sat 29 Feb —

The gents toilet sign in Debenhams has had its floating head removed. Down below the headless man, the word ‘Toilets’ is accompanied by a rightward pointing arrow in white vinyl decals. One of the prongs of the arrow has been peeled off and added to the crotch of the man, which incidentally still points in the direction of the gents.